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University research finds childhood obesity increases risk of type 1 diabetes

3rd May 2022 - 07:00
Being overweight in childhood increases the risk of developing type 1 diabetes in later life, according to a study by the universities of Bristol and Oxford who analysed genetic data on over 400,000 individuals.

The research also found that being overweight in childhood influences the risk of other diseases including asthma, eczema and hypothyroidism. The number of individuals being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes has increased ‘drastically’ in the last 20 years.

According to the researchers poor diets with high fat, salt and carbohydrate may compromise early life health-promoting effects of the bacteria in the gut and pancreatic beta-cell fragility in childhood and subsequently increase type 1 diabetes risk.

Researchers analysed human genetic data from 454,023 individuals from the UK Biobank and 15,573 type 1 diabetes cases from other cohorts and applied a scientific technique called Mendelian Randomization (MR) to provide evidence that childhood adiposity increases type 1 diabetes risk.

Dr Tom Richardson, the study’s lead author, said: “The effect of childhood obesity directly increases type 1 diabetes risk, emphasising the importance of implementing preventative policies to lower the prevalence of childhood obesity and its subsequent influence on the rising numbers of cases for this lifelong disease.

“A critical window exists in childhood to mitigate the influence of adiposity on the escalating numbers of type 1 diabetes diagnoses. A 22% reduction in the number of these cases is plausible if the proportion of children within the highest obesity category were to be reduced by 10%, from 15.9 to 5.9%. This will help ease healthcare burdens and also potentially improve the quality of life for individuals living with this lifelong disease.”

Written by
Edward Waddell